Happy 54th Birthday Head Start

On May 18th, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said of his great experiment in education, "Birth in poverty will not mean a life in ignorance," when he announced to the nation the creation of Project Head Start from the White House Rose Garden.

For 54 years, Head Start parents and staff have been the most active advocates on behalf of the program, keeping LBJ's experiment alive and healthy. “In particular, the work of Head Start parents has kept the program alive,” he said. “It's a tribute to our country that [they] have been able to be a force, that Congress and the executive branch have listened."

This year is also the 25th birthday of Early Head Start—which was authorized in 1994 to address the needs of low-income pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.

"Lady Bird Johnson and crowd of school children with Head Start Banner." 1967.
Photograph. From LBJ Library. http://www.lbjlibrary.org/collections/photo-archive.html.
Knudsen, Robert, photographer.


Head Start is the most important social and educational investment in children, families, and communities that the United States has ever undertaken. The Head Start Project was launched in 1965 as a comprehensive child development program. Over the past 50 years, it has provided a window of opportunity for success in life to more than 32 million low-income and other vulnerable children and their families across the United States. Head Start has remained strong in the face of changing political and fiscal climates because it has continually improved the services it delivers to children and families and responded to the changing needs of local communities.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson asked Sargent Shriver to convene a panel of child development experts to design a program to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. The panel report - named the Cooke Report after its chair Dr. Robert Cooke - became the blueprint for Project Head Start.
Project Head Start was launched as an eight-week summer program by the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965. It was designed to help break the cycle of poverty by providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and psychological needs and support the families in improving their lives. Head Start was envisioned as an eight-week summer program staffed by volunteers from across the nation. The plan was to open the doors to a few thousand children nationwide. When more than 561,000 children showed up, each one was welcomed with open arms, and Head Start was enthusiastically received by education, child development specialists, community leaders, and parents.
Head Start now serves more than one million children and their families each year in urban and rural areas in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories, including many American Indian, Alaska Native, and migrant children.
In 1969, Head Start was transferred from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the Office of Child Development in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and is now a program within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services. A well-established, though still innovative program, Head Start has had a strong impact on communities and early childhood programs across the country. The program is locally administered by community-based organizations and school systems. Grants are awarded directly by the Department of Health and Human Services Regional offices, except for the American Indian and Migrant programs, which are administered from Washington, D.C. [Source]
"The War on Poverty began with President Lyndon Johnson's visit to Tom Fletcher's front porch in Martin County, Kentucky, in April 1964"" 1964. Photograph. Courtesy of UCLA, Special Collections, Young (Charles E.) Research Library.